Austin, TX

Texas Goodwill store sells ancient Roman sculpture for $35, it's now on display at San Antonio Museum of Art

Kristen Walters

An ancient Roman bust was mistakenly sold to a woman at a Goodwill store in Austin, Texas, for $35. It is now on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Max Rottersman/Pexels (Canva Pro license)

Starting on May 4, 2022, a new exhibit with an interesting backstory will be on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

The piece in question is an ancient Roman bust of a man. But how it came to the United States makes it even more interesting.

Historians believe the artifact dates back to the first century BC or possibly the first century AD, when the Roman Empire reached its height of power throughout Europe and North Africa. This is also right around the time that Christ is thought to have lived on Earth.

Researchers know that the art piece was previously on display in the town of Aschaffenburg, Germany, prior to World War II. However, during WWII, the building where the artifact was on display was severely damaged by bombings, and the ancient Roman sculpture was removed.

We do know that the United States set up military camps in the town of Aschaffenburg, Germany, during the war, some of which remained intact until 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved.

While it is not exactly clear how the ancient Roman sculpture made its way to the United States, researchers believe it was most likely a US soldier who brought the art piece with him when he returned from the war.

In 2018, an antique dealer found the sculpture in a Goodwill store located in Austin, Texas. The ancient artifact was being sold for "$34.99" according to the yellow price sticker that was haphazardly stuck to its face.

Suspecting that the piece was worth a bit more than the Goodwill store had charged, the buyer had the sculpture inspected by an art appraiser who confirmed that the antique dealer had, in fact, stumbled upon an ancient Roman artifact.

The piece will be on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art until May 21, 2023. It will then be sent back to Germany.

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